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Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals Sunday News and Notes

Notes, quotes, photos, and video from final eliminations day at the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,
31 Oct 2021
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage


Prior to the first round, Top Fuel championship contenders Steve Torrence and low qualifier Brittany Force talked about their hopes for the day.


Alex Laughlin collected just his second career round win in Top Fuel when he defeated Clay Millican in round one. Laughlin was loose trailing Millican by a substantial margin when the engine in Millican’s Parts Plus dragster erupted in fire, allowing Laughlin to squeak by for the win. Laughlin, competing in just his sixth race in Top Fuel after a fine career in Pro Stock, scored his first Top Fuel round win earlier this season in Indianapolis.

“It was getting pretty wild and western down there,” said Laughlin of his sashaying pass. “On race day, you have to get the car to the finish line first no matter what. Anything can happen.”


Billy Torrence claimed his first-round win by the narrowest of margins, squeezing by Shawn Langdon by just .0001-second. Langdon jumped out to a big lead in the CMR Roofing entry, .049 to .092, but Torrence outran him the remaining 999 feet to claim the win, 3.738 to a cylinder-dropping 3.781.


Tripp Tatum won his first-round race for the second straight event, handily beating rookie of the year contender Josh Hart with a career-best numbers of 3.711, 331.61 Tatum, competing in just his third race this season, had scored a round win over Doug Kalitta at the NHRA Midwest Nationals with a 3.714, 331.16.

Tatum will have lane choice against points leader Steve Torrence in round two.


The top six drivers in the Top Fuel point chase all advanced to round two. Points leader Steve Torrence took a 3.75 stroll against engine-losing Jim Maroney, second-place Brittany Force powered to low e.t. of the round with a 3.670 to defeat Troy Buff while third-ranked Justin Ashley took down tire-smoking Cameron Ferre and fourth-place Mike Salinas eked past Doug Kalitta, 3.72 to 3.73. Add in Billy Torrence, who’s in fifth, and Leah Pruett taking out tire-smoking Antron Brown, and there wasn’t a lot of points drama changed with just seven rounds remaining this season. Steve Torrence continues to lead Force by 65 points.


Prior to round one, Funny Car championship contenders Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, J.R. Todd, and Cruz Pedregon assembled on the stage to talk about their battle that lays ahead in the last two racedays of the season. (John Force did not make it to the stage on time to take part.)


Not long after this above interview, the Funny Car championship battle was turned on its head with the first-round losses of points leader Matt Hagan, third-place J.R. Todd, and fourth-place John Force. Hagan dropped a cylinder against Chad Green and lost 4.00 to 4.08, giving Green his first career round win in Funny Car competition, J.R. Todd got loose and had to lift at halftrack against Paul Lee in a battle that pitted brothers Jon Oberhofer (tuner for Todd) and Jim Oberhofer (tuner for Lee), and Force lost to Chris Morel. 

Fifth-place Cruz Pedregon barely escaped rookie Tony Jurado after flirting with the centerline, allowing him to move past Force and into fourth place and can get to third past Todd if he reaches the semifinals.

The beneficiary of all of this is Ron Capps, who entered the day in second place, two points behind Hagan, and now has a clear path to pull away from his challengers in hope of a second world championship. Capps has second-round lane choice against Alexis DeJoria.


Chris Morel will never forget his first victory in NHRA Funny Car competition as it came against the sport’s winningest driver, John Force, in round one. The engine in Force’s Peak/Blue Def Camaro faltered just off the line while Morel had to lift to avoid crossing the centerline, but nonetheless got the win in his Little City Charger, much to the delight of the parietal Nevada fans of the Reno-based team.

"I've been watching John Force since I was a kid and he was always a favorite and to be able to race against him is awesome," said Morel.  "I want to thank crew chief Terry Manzer and Roger Primm and our whole crew. I had a bunch of  friends come up to watch us from Reno. Thank you all."

Force was magnanimous in defeat. "I remember where I came from and it's good to see a kid like this take his shot," he said. "My engine just shut off; I don't know why."


Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson and second-place Erica Enders are battling one another to become five-time world champs. The title-hungry duo shared their thoughts about the title battle prior to round one.


The qualifying strategy employed by the Elite Motorsports team that allowed Troy Coughlin Jr. to land an opening round race against Greg Anderson worked to perfection as Coughlin defeated the points leader in a crucial round one match.

Coughlin was one of three members of the Elite team who intentionally shut off early in order to manipulate the qualifying ladder. He ended up in the No. 16 spot, a perfect place to draw low qualifier Anderson. Setting up a race against Anderson is one thing, but beating him is quite a bit more challenging.

Coughlin got the jump on the starting line, .022 to .043, and it was just enough to get the job done as the pink JEGS.com Camaro crossed the finish line first by a thousandth of a second. Anderson’s advantage over Enders had been 92 points but that was trimmed to 72 after Enders won her battle against teammate Bo Butner.

“That was very disappointing. I obviously get the job done,” said Anderson. “The car was great driver wasn’t good enough. Now, we need to find a way to fight back. We’re not giving up. I don’t hear anyone singing just yet.”


Kyle Koretsky had one of the quickest cars in qualifying,  but suffered a rare round one loss when he drew a red-light against Cristian Cuadra, who is racing this weekend as a member of the rival Elite Motorsports team. Koretsky appeared to have trouble staging his Lucas Oil/Nitro Fish Camaro and rolled the beams to activate the red-light.


Chris McGaha watched his son, Mason, win his opening round race against Alan Prusiensky but that was the last thing that went right for the Harlow Sammons team. Chris muffed the burnout on his silver Camaro so it wasn’t a surprise that the car didn’t leave the starting line when he dumped the clutch. McGaha’s issues allowed for Kenny Delco to secure a round one victory in spite of an early shut-off 7.14.

Crew chief Mike Stryker explained that the team has been having transmission issues lately and that Chris had no high gear as he attempted to do his burnout.


Pro Stock Motorcycle championship hopefuls Matt Smith, Angelle Sampey, and Steve Johnson shared the stage during pre-race to talk about their title aspirations.


Steve Johnson had no trouble keeping pace in the Championship battle as he coasted to a 6.87 in his round one win against Charles Poskey, who is racing a Matt Smith-prepared bike. Johnson will have a tough draw in round two when he takes on Angie Smith.


There were several improvements in round one of Pro Stock Motorcycle but incoming points leader Matt Smith dropped a bomb on the field when he rode his Denso Buell to a 6.825 to easily take care of Michael Phillips. Despite his performance improvement, Smith still somehow feels he's at a disadvantage against the Suzuki four valve entries.

“You’ve got a bunch of Suzuki’s out here that are bad ass right now,” said Smith. “But, we’re going to take this V-twin and see if we can bring the Wally back to North Carolina and the championship.”

After round one, the top three championship contenders; Smith, Angelle Sampey, Steve Johnson, and Eddie Krawiec are remaining in competition.


The top four points leaders in Top Fuel will make up the semifinals after Steve Torrence, Brittany Force, Justin Ashley, and Mike Salinas all advanced.

Salinas had low e.t. of the round with a 3.726 to beat Billy Torrence, but the other trio were within two-hundredths of hi, with Torrence going 3.736 to beat Tripp Tatum, Ashley running 3.739 to best Alex Laughlin, and low qualifier Force running 3.745 to beat double-stepping, red-lighting Leah Pruett.

Salinas will have lane choice over Force while Torrence will pick his lane against Ashley.


Ron Capps continued to widen his new points lead by defeating low qualifier Alexis DeJoria, the NAPA Auto Parts team making their best run of the event, 3.884 at top speed of the meet 332.10. His lead over Matt Hagan is now 38 points.

Fellow Top 10 racers Robert Hight beat Chad Green and Bob Tasca III took down Paul Lee

Capps will have lane choice over Hight’s 3.909 while Cruz Pedregon will have lane choice over Tasca’s 3.945 after a strong 3.9043 from the Snap-on Tools Dodge. Pedregon’s win moved him past J.R. Todd into third place, 103 markers behind Capps.


For all the new talent that has entered the sport lately, it would be hard to argue that reigning champ Erica Enders isn’t still the best driver in Pro Stock and she proved it with a holeshot win over Matt Hartford in the second round. Enders was .028 off the starting line, which isn’t her best light, but it was enough to get the won over Hartford’s .034 as both cars ran identical elapsed times.

The win allowed Enders to trim 20 more points off Greg Anderson’s points lead. Enders will have a semifinal race against her teammate, Troy Coughlin Jr., who defeated Deric Kramer.

On the other side of the ladder, Dallas Glenn continued his campaign to be named the NHRA Rookie of the Year with a win over Kenny Delco, who fouled. Glenn will take on Mason McGaha, who topped Cristian Cuadra.


The Vance & Hines team claimed that Eddie Krawiec’s Buell V-twin lost oil pressure prior to his quarterfinal race against Angelle Sampey, who continues to pursue her fourth Pro Stock Motorcycle title. The free pass proved to be a blessing for Sampey who shut off early after her Suzuki headed towards the centerline.

In the semifinals, Sampey will take on Steve Johnson, is a match that figures to have huge implications in the points battle.

Incoming leader Matt Smith had no trouble in his win over Chris Bostick, with a 6.833 that was by far the quickest run of the round. Smith will have a tough draw when he takes on Karen Stoffer’s Suzuki in the semifinal round.


Bruno Massel Jr. clinched his third NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Comp world championship by reaching the final round with his turbocharged CC/AT Cobalt.

Massel, who won his previous championships in 2009 and 2012, is just the fifth driver in NHRA history to win three or more Comp world championships, joining Norwin Palmer, Bill Maropulos, David Rampy, and Frank Aragona Jr. 


Steve Torrence gained a little breathing ground in his tight championship battle with Brittany Force. After defeating Justin Ashley with his best run of the race, 3.688, he watched form the top end as Mike Salinas defeated Force in the other semifinal, winning it on a holeshot, 3.703 to 3.682. Torrence, who will have lane choice in the final, now leads Force by 85 points while Salinas closed to within 67 of Force for second place.


Ron Capps extended his points lead over Matt Hagan to 58 points after defeating tire-smoking Robert Hight in the semifinals. Capps' 3.904 earned him lane choice over Cruz Pedregon, who ran 3.924 to trailer Bob Tasca III. Pedregon now trails second-place Hagan by just 45 points.


Dallas Glenn will look to lock up his status as the leading contender for the Rookie of the Year award while Erica Enders will be trying to gain more ground on points leader Greg Anderson when they race in the Pro Stock final.

Glenn, already a two-time winner this season, put his RAD Torque Systems Camaro into the final round with a 6.683 after fellow young gun Mason McGaha red-lighted in the semifinals.

Enders will have an opportunity to cut Anderson’s lead to just 12 points after her semifinal win over Elite teammate Troy Coughlin Jr., who shut off early. Enders will have lane choice by three-thousandths after a 6.680.


Steve Johnson remains in contention for his first Camping World Pro Stock Motorcycle championship after a big holeshot win over fellow contender Angelle Sampey. Johnson gained five hundredths at the start and held on for a 6.83 to 6.87 victory.

The other half of the semifinals was also decided via holeshot when Karen Stoffer got the best of championship leader Matt Smith. Stoffer’s 6.86 beat the 6.83 of Smith’s Denso Buell.


Driver Sean Bellemeur and the Steve Boggs-tuned, Tony Bartone-owned team – the Killer Bs – won their third Top Alcohol Funny Car world championship by defeating Brian Hough in the final round to unseat Doug Gordon as world champ. Bellemeur’s title is his third, after previous crowns in 2018 and 2019.


Winner-take-all final rounds are rare in drag racing but when they happen, they are usually worth the price of admission. That was certainly the case when Rachel Meyer took on Jackie Fricke in the Top Alcohol Dragster final. At stake was not only the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals Wally,  but also the Lucas Oil TAD world championship.

Meyer, following in the footsteps of her older sister, Megan, earned her first title in dramatic fashion when she ran low elapsed time of the weekend with a 5.191 at 281.01 mph. Fricke was consistent with a 5.260, but couldn’t keep up with the Meyer.


Top Fuel: Steve Torrence expands Top Fuel points lead with huge Las Vegas victory
Funny Car: Cruz Pedregon climbs back into title battle with clutch Las Vegas Funny Car win
Pro Stock: “Double-O Dallas” strikes again in Vegas; Glenn wins third Pro Stock race
Pro Stock Motorcycle: First title within reach after Johnson bags third Pro Stock Motorcycle win of the season


Top Alcohol Dragster -- Rachel Meyer, 5.191, 281.01 def. Jackie Fricke, 5.260, 270.16. 

Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Sean Bellemeur, Chevy Camaro, 5.535, 265.17 def. Brian Hough, Camaro, 5.973, 161.34. 

Competition Eliminator -- Bruno Massel, Cobalt, 7.099, 182.92 def. Dean Carter, Dragster, 6.994, 167.43. 

Super Stock -- Chris Hall, Chevy Camaro, 8.990, 150.46 def. Larry Zavala, Camaro, 9.899, 134.15. 

Stock Eliminator -- Justin Lamb, Chevy Camaro, 9.918, 131.14 def. Todd Hoven, Dodge Coronet, 9.986, 130.59. 

Super Comp -- Steve Williams, Dragster, 9.052, 184.57 def. Cody Webber, Dragster, 9.031, 177.65. 

Super Gas -- Evan Kowalski, Chevy Corvette, 10.038, 154.17 def. Mike Ferderer, Pontiac Grand Am, 10.034, 161.83. 

Super Street -- Nick Alejandre, Chevy Chevelle, 11.029, 139.17 def. Kenny Snow, Chevelle, 11.029, 142.19.